Surgical management of incidentally discovered diffusely infiltrating low-grade glioma

J Neurosurg 129:19–26, 2018

Occasionally, diffusely infiltrating low-grade gliomas (LGGs) are identified as incidental findings in patients who have no signs or symptoms that can be ascribed to the tumors. The diagnosis of incidental, asymptomatic LGGs has become more frequent due to the vast increase in access to medical imaging technology. While management of these lesions remains controversial, early surgery has been suggested to improve outcome. The authors set out to identify and review the characteristics and surgical outcomes of patients who underwent surgical intervention for incidental LGG.

METHODS All cases of LGG surgically treated between 2004 and 2016 at the authors’ institution were analyzed to identify those that were discovered incidentally. Patients with incidentally discovered LGGs were identified, and their cases were retrospectively reviewed. An “incidental” finding was defined as an abnormality on imaging that was obtained for a reason not attributable to the glioma, such as trauma, headache, screening, or research participation. Kaplan-Meier analysis was performed to determine actuarial rates of overall survival, progression-free survival, and malignant progression– free survival.

RESULTS In 34 (6.8%) of 501 adult patients who underwent surgery for LGG, the tumors were discovered incidentally. Headache (26%, n = 9) and screening (21%, n = 7) were the most common indications for brain imaging in this group. Four of these 34 patients had initial biopsy after the tumor was identified on imaging. In 5 cases, the patients opted for immediate resection; the remaining cases were managed with a “watch-and-wait” approach, with intervention undertaken only after radiological or clinical evidence of disease progression. The mean duration of follow-up for all 34 cases was 5 years. Twelve patients (35.3%) had disease progression, with an average time to progression of 43.8 months (range 3–105 months). There were 5 cases (14.7%) of malignant progression and 4 deaths (11.8%). Oligodendroglioma was diagnosed in 16 cases (47%) and astrocytoma in 15 (44%). Twenty-five patients (74%) had IDH1 mutation and demonstrated prolonged survival. Only 2 patients had mild surgery-related complications, and 16 patients (47%) developed epilepsy during the course of the disease.

CONCLUSIONS In this retrospective analysis of cases of incidentally discovered LGGs, the tumors were surgically removed with minimal surgical risk. In patients with incidental LGGs there is improved overall survival relative to median survival for patients with symptomatic LGGS, which is likely attributable to the underlying favorable biology of the disease indicated by the presence of IDH1 mutation in 74% of the cases.